Likud and Habayit Hayehudi parties agree to work together to finalize bill, which requires a two-thirds Knesset majority to approve any decision to divide Jerusalem under a peace deal • Compromise reached after PM Benjamin Netanyahu blocked legislation.
The Likud and Habayit Hayehudi parties reached a compromise on the so-called “united Jerusalem” bill on Sunday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his powers to scrap the bill from this week’s legislative agenda.
The bill, first reported by Israel Hayom, aims to make it harder to cede parts of Jerusalem in any future peace agreement by requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the Knesset — 80 out of the 120 MKs — to approve any decision in favor of dividing the capital. The bill would be an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem.
After a bitter spat during a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett, and Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Zeev Elkin of Likud agreed to work together in the coming days to finalize the language of the bill. The two plan to present a new version of the bill to the committee next week.
At the committee hearing on Sunday, Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) squabbled with Likud ministers Yariv Levin and Yoav Kisch. The Likud members proposed a deal under which they would support the bill if a Likud-led committee, rather than the Ministerial Committee for Legislation chaired by Shaked, is tasked with finalizing its provisions.
But Habayit Hayehudi shot down that proposal and Netanyahu used his powers to scrap the bill from this week’s agenda.
In the immediate aftermath of the spat, and before the Elkin-Bennett compromise was announced, Habayit Hayehudi threatened to move ahead with the bill even without the official backing of the coalition, potentially embarrassing Likud MKs who would have had to abstain or oppose a bill on bolstering Jerusalem once it reached the Knesset plenum for a vote.
“Five minutes ago, the prime minister vetoed the united Jerusalem bill,” Bennett said after the explosive meeting.
“Unfortunately, the prime minister has chosen to take the matter off the agenda, and has therefore blocked the legislative process.
“We are determined to pass this bill through all readings [in the Knesset], and I believe we will be able to unite behind the bill and behind Jerusalem. Jerusalem must be united through action, not with speeches. It is unfortunate that narrow political considerations have overshadowed the need to prevent the division of the capital. We will continue to fight over this bill and will do all we can to advance it in the coming days.”
Likud shot back, accusing Habayit Hayehudi of advancing the legislation unilaterally without consulting with the other coalition parties.
“When you steal someone else’s credit, at least do it by the rules. You cannot submit a bill on Jerusalem without first consulting with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Elkin,” a Likud official said.
“The wheelers and dealers at Habayit Hayehudi know full well that Netanyahu supports the bill, having already expressed support for its provisions in 2007, and they also know that according to the coalition agreements any bill to amend Israel’s Basic Laws must have the unanimous support of all coalition partners, but they have chosen to forgo the consensus-building and deal with petty politics,” the official said.
“Likud is determined to see that Jerusalem always stays united under Israeli sovereignty, and therefore we are not going to play in this sandbox along with Bennett and Shaked. We will promote this bill with all coalition partners.”